Q: What’s the justification for SOPA and Protect IP?
Two words: ROGUE SITES.
That’s Hollywood’s term for Web sites that happen to be located in a nation more hospitable to copyright infringement than the United States is (in fact, the U.S. is probably the least hospitable jurisdiction in the world for such an endeavor). Because the target is offshore, a lawsuit against the owners in a U.S. court would be futile.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, in a letter to the editor of The New York Times, put it this way: “Rogue Web sites that steal America’s innovative and creative products attract more than 53 billion visits a year and threaten more than 19 million American jobs.” The MPAA has a section of its Web site devoted to rogue Web sites. Jim Hood, the Democratic attorney general of Mississippi, and co-chair of a National Association of Attorneys General committee on the topic, recently likened rogue Web sites to child porn.
Q: Who’s opposed to SOPA?
Much of the Internet industry and a large percentage of Internet users. Here’s the most current list (PDF) of opponents.
On November 15, Google, Facebook, Twitter, Zynga, eBay, Mozilla, Yahoo, AOL, and LinkedIn wrote a letter to key members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, saying SOPA poses “a serious risk to our industry’s continued track record of innovation and job creation, as well as to our nation’s cybersecurity.” Yahoo has reportedly quit the U.S. Chamber of
Commerce over the organization’s enthusiastic support for SOPA.
The European Parliament adopted a resolution last week stressing “the need to protect the integrity of the global Internet and freedom of communication by refraining from unilateral measures to revoke IP addresses or domain names.” Rep. Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, said in a message on Twitter last week that we “need to find a better solution than #SOPA.”
A letter signed by Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Anna Eshoo, both California Democrats, and
Rep. Ron Paul, the Republican presidential candidate from Texas, predicts that SOPA will invite “an explosion of innovation-killing lawsuits and litigation.” Law professors have also raised concerns. And yes, there is a protest song.
Q: How would SOPA work?
It allows the U.S. attorney general to seek a court order against the targeted offshore Web site that would, in turn, be served on Internet providers in an effort to make the target virtually disappear. It’s kind of an Internet death penalty.
More specifically, section 102 of SOPA says that, after being served with a removal order:
A service provider shall take technically feasible and reasonable measures designed to prevent access by its subscribers located within the United States to the foreign infringing site (or portion thereof) that is subject to the order…Such actions shall be taken as expeditiously as possible, but in any case within five days after being served with a copy of the order, or within such time as the court may order.
Q: What will SOPA require Internet providers to do?
A little-noticed portion of the proposed law, which CNET highlighted in an article, goes further than Protect IP and could require Internet providers to monitor customers’ traffic and block Web sites suspected of copyright infringement.
“It would cover IP blocking,” says Markham Erickson, head of NetCoalition, whose members include Amazon.com, Google, eBay, and Yahoo. “I think it contemplates deep packet inspection” as well, he said.
The exact requirements will depend on what the removal order says. The Recording Industry Association of America says that SOPA could be used to force Internet providers to block by “Internet Protocol address” and deny “access to only the illegal part of the site.” It would come as no surprise if copyright holders suggested wording to the Justice Department, which would in turn seek a judge’s signature on the removal order.
Deep packet inspection, meaning forcing an Internet provider to intercept and analyze customers’ Web traffic, is the only way to block access to specific URLs.
Smith’s revised version (PDF) may limit the blocking requirement to DNS blocking. Its “safe harbor” language indicates that not resolving “the domain name of the foreign infringing site” may be sufficient, but some ambiguity remains.